John Barilaro tells ICAC Berejiklian probe Daryl Maguire was a ‘pain in the a***’

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Several aspects of the process in granting millions to a project being pushed by Gladys Berejiklian’s secret lover – including its “expediency” – were unusual in hindsight, former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has told the state’s corruption watchdog.

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether Berejiklian breached the public trust when she supported projects proposed by former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, with whom she was in a clandestine relationship.

The hearings centred around a multi-million dollar upgrade to the Wagga Wagga Clay Target Club championed by Maguire.

As treasurer in 2016, Berejiklian controlled the agenda for the Expenditure Review Committee and the ICAC has heard she was perceived as instrumental to the decision to revisit a business case that found the shooting facility proposal lacked merit.

Barilaro – who was the minister responsible for the fund from which the money was to be drawn – began giving evidence on Monday, as the probe entered its second week.

He told the inquiry he had only attended a handful of meetings of the ERC when the funding was discussed, but with years of experience now under his belt, in hindsight he found elements of the process in securing the grant “unusual”.

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro arrives at ICAC
John Barilaro says looking back there were several uncommon aspects about the grant proposal. Credit: AAP

The “expediency” of the process, the fact the grant was pitched without a clear source of funding and the size or value of the assistance sought were all uncommon in hindsight, he said.

Barilaro said he had no clue Berejiklian was in a relationship with Maguire, who he described as a “pain in the a***” and a “dog with a bone” in his advocacy for projects in his electorate.

‘Conflict of interest’

If he – or anyone else – had known, the proposal would definitely have been handled in a different way, Barilaro said.

“(We) would have done everything differently,” he said.

“The way that the item would have been debated, who would have been in attendance … (there would have been) another approach in dealing with what would be a perceived conflict of interest.”

The ICAC inquiry last week heard bureaucrats in the NSW Office of Sport also found the urgency of the process unusual.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian resigned on October 1.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian resigned on October 1. Credit: AAP

They were sceptical about the project when Maguire put it forward in 2012 and then again in 2016, dismissing it as “low priority” because it would compete with a state-owned Sydney facility.

As well, there was insufficient detail to back the proposal, former Office of Sport executive director Paul Doorn told the ICAC.

But the ICAC has heard the office was given a single day to prepare a document then-sports minister Stuart Ayres could take to the ERC to advocate for the project to be funded.

The public servants were in the dark about the reason for the urgency.

A memo tendered in evidence and raised at hearings shows an adviser to then-premier Mike Baird speculating that Ayres and then-treasurer Berejiklian had done a “sweetheart deal” with Maguire.

Daryl Maguire.
Daryl Maguire. Credit: AAP

Berejiklian and Maguire will give evidence this week, after a raft of current and former politicians and public servants faced public hearings last week.

Ayres, the new deputy leader of the NSW Liberals, testified on Friday he did not know of the secret relationship, echoing evidence given on Wednesday by former premier Mike Baird, who said he was “incredulous” to learn of the relationship and that it “should have been disclosed”.

Berejiklian stepped down as premier on October 1, when the ICAC announced it would be holding the public hearings examining her conduct. She denies any wrongdoing.

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